Bills vs. Colts score: Josh Allen shines, Buffalo 'D' preserves late lead as Bills advance to Divisional Round

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Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts did not quit in the first game of Super Wild-Card Weekend, but they came up just short when it mattered most. Despite 14 fourth-quarter points and a last-minute drive by a resilient Rivers, it was the Buffalo Bills who got the job done, preserving a narrow lead even in the face of a polarizing officiating decision not to overturn a non-fumble call on a relatively clear Indy turnover. With Josh Allen displaying some of his MVP-caliber magic and Stefon Diggs doing the same, the Bills sealed a 27-24 win to advance to the Divisional Round.

The Buffalo victory ensures the AFC's No. 2 seed will live to fight another week, not to mention the Bills' first playoff win since 1995. The Colts, meanwhile, will enter an offseason with some big question marks -- particularly at QB -- after their second straight season without a playoff victory.

Here are some immediate takeaways from Saturday's tight AFC contest:

Why the Bills won

Their weapons showed out with splash plays. Seriously, it's as simple as that. We all knew coming into the game that Buffalo boasted some of the game's best offensive firepower this side of Kansas City, and while the Bills failed to establish much of a ground game and too often faced third-and-longs, they once again got big-time performances from their core starters. Josh Allen nearly gave Indy a crucial takeaway with a late fumble but was otherwise dynamic, Stefon Diggs somehow made 128 yards and a TD feel like a mild day, and Gabriel Davis was also a repeat deep threat. The "D" did fine, too, capitalizing on Indy's failed red-zone play-calling and thwarting a late comeback attempt, but this victory, like many others, was mostly due to the game-changing electricity of this team's QB.

Why the Colts lost

It wasn't for lack of effort. Philip Rivers, as per usual in 2020, never looked incredibly comfortable airing the ball out, but it didn't matter, because he made a habit of picking at Buffalo's secondary with lots of short but effective tight-end shots. Still, if that's your game plan, you have to be nearly perfect on key downs and scoring chances, especially against a team like Buffalo, and they weren't. The red-zone play-calling on an early series left a lot to be desired, though Rivers could've given an open Michael Pittman an easier opportunity for six, too. It was a solid outing for Indy's "O," to be sure, even with Jonathan Taylor mostly held in check, but those late-drive mistakes were killer. Defensively, the Colts flashed but got beat deep one too many times.

Turning point

With 3:32 left in the third quarter, the Colts turned to Rodrigo Blankenship to cut their deficit from seven to four points, trailing 17-10. As if settling for three weren't bad enough, Blankenship proceeded to miss the 33-yard kick, and Buffalo then went 77 yards and ate up more than four minutes of clock to extend their lead to 14. Indy fought back in the fourth, threatening to tie or take the lead in the final minute of action, but that third-quarter hole is the reason they had to claw back in the first place.

Play of the game

No question about it: Allen's first TD, a pass to Dawson Knox to put Buffalo up 7-3, was his best improvised play in a while. What began as a designed QB run turned into an under-duress scoring toss that set the tone for the Bills' offense early.

What's next

The Bills will head to the Divisional Round, where they'll take on the highest remaining seed from the wild-card matchups -- either the Steelers, Titans or Ravens. The Colts, meanwhile, will begin their 2021 offseason with quite a few questions to answer -- none more important than whether or not Philip Rivers will return as their starting QB.

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BUF -6.5, o50.5
BUF -6.5, O/U 50.5

Season Leaders

passing
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P. Rivers 4169 YD, 24 TDS, 11 INTS
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P. Rivers 4169 YD, 24 TDS, 11 INTS
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J. Allen 4544 YD, 37 TDS, 10 INTS
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J. Allen 4544 YD, 37 TDS, 10 INTS
rushing
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J. Taylor 232 ATT, 1169 YD, 11 TDS
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J. Taylor 232 ATT, 1169 YD, 11 TDS
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D. Singletary 156 ATT, 687 YD, 2 TDS
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D. Singletary 156 ATT, 687 YD, 2 TDS
receiving
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T. Hilton 56 REC, 762 YD, 5 TDS
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T. Hilton 56 REC, 762 YD, 5 TDS
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S. Diggs 127 REC, 1535 YD, 8 TDS
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S. Diggs 127 REC, 1535 YD, 8 TDS
Live updates
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@BuffaloBills via Twitter
January 9, 2021, 9:36 PM

Buffalo will face the second-lowest advancing seed from the AFC playoffs. Possible opponents include the Steelers, Titans, and Ravens.

January 9, 2021, 9:22 PM

That'll do it. The Bills win a playoff game for the first time in 25 years. Wow.

January 9, 2021, 9:21 PM

And now it has to be a pass to the end zone. I'd think we see Jacoby Brissett here, but Rivers is still in.

January 9, 2021, 9:21 PM

Not enough time for Indy to complete a pass over the middle and then spike it, so this HAS to be a pass to the sideline.

January 9, 2021, 9:20 PM

I think the Bills are again using a timeout to try to get the booth to review whether or not Pittman got out of bounds.

January 9, 2021, 9:18 PM

What a break for Indy. Need only 20 yards or so for a field goal now.

January 9, 2021, 9:18 PM

I mean, that seemed pretty clear that Pascal was up before he was touched. Wow.

January 9, 2021, 9:17 PM

whaaaaaaat how?

January 9, 2021, 9:17 PM
@BuffaloBills via Twitter
January 9, 2021, 9:17 PM

I don't know if he did it on purpose but Poyer waiting to go for the punch-out instead of touching Pascal while he was on the ground turned out to be a huge play.

January 9, 2021, 9:14 PM

This looks like it's going to be a fumble. Wow. What a backbreaker.

January 9, 2021, 9:13 PM

Good job by the Bills to take a timeout before the snap, giving the replay booth more time to order a review.

January 9, 2021, 9:12 PM

oh my god

January 9, 2021, 9:11 PM

Great play by Tre White, who has essentially erased TY Hilton all game.

January 9, 2021, 9:10 PM

Rivers' running backs now have three drops on the day. And Hines had soooo much room to run there.

January 9, 2021, 9:10 PM

The Colts seem like they are playing for a field goal here and not a touchdown, which would be a big mistake.

January 9, 2021, 9:09 PM

Throwing short of the line to gain there was not the best decision, but the Bills forced it by bringing a blitz.

January 9, 2021, 9:08 PM

So, the Colts have 2:30 left and the ball at their own 14-yard line. Field goal to tie and a touchdown to take the lead. Last two drives were very quick and very easy.

January 9, 2021, 9:03 PM

That was almost another turnover by Allen. Bills getting very, very lucky.

January 9, 2021, 9:01 PM

Josh Allen hasn't been loose with the football for a while, but boy was he close to giving Indy all the momentum. Had the Colts gotten on top of that fumble, they would've been in a prime position to run their way in for a go-ahead score.

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